Designer Jungwoo Park behind Seoul-based brand THE STOLEN GARMENT, talks about his inspirations, working and creating during these uncertain times and the future of the brand.
Has fashion always played a role in your life? If so, how?
Yes, I have played with the transformative power of fashion since I was young when I thought of dressing up as a role-play. I changed several times a day for different occasions. I placed great importance in the way I was dressed whenever I was placed into a new setting. Having grown up in a conservative family, however, I struggled to hide my taste and orientation.
It has always been important for me to dress myself in appropriate attire for different social situations. Due to my conservative upbringing, I frequently found myself dressed in clothes that did not fit the occasion. My childhood also allowed me to better understand the power inherent to the act of presenting myself through the things I wore, and cultivate an insight into “looks.” I also got to play with how accessories could change the mood, which I try to apply to my collections.
How and why did you decide to launch your own label?
The launching of my brand came about in the form of a project through which I could respond and process the situations I was in at the moment, and the name of this project was The Stolen Garment.
There’s a very interesting story behind the name the Stolen Garment. Could you please tell it to our readers?
When I returned to Korea after the graduation collection, I heard that there will be a graduation exhibition for 12 graduates, and I sent my clothes back to London.
When one of my exhibited pieces got stolen, I was able to start the brand with the insurance money that I received.
What has been the biggest risk you have taken since starting the brand? And what has been the top highlight moment for you?
I am always waiting for the top highlighted moment. I have yet to feel that moment yet.
Ever since the beginning of my brand, I feel that everything I do as a designer comes with risks.
I find myself dealing with decisions that I had never thought of as a student. As someone without any prior work experience in a fashion brand, I struggled a lot in the beginning communicating with various Korean industry collaborators in a respectful and professional way.
After working with and developing close working relationships with many talents in Korea, I definitely feel more in control of the risks that I take.
What was the biggest challenge in creating the new collections during these uncertain times?
While preparing for the collection, we saw many of our business partners having to shut down temporarily due to COVID cases in their offices. From this, I became increasingly anxious about the likelihood of possibly having to shut down the business myself.
This new reality has decreased my face-to-face encounters with others, and changed my thoughts on clothes on different levels, which I will incorporate into the coming SS22 collection.
Your designs are very futuristic and playful. Do you think fashion will change towards a more bold and experimental direction after the pandemic ends?
Pandemic has changed our ways of life, and from this change I feel the future.
I don’t know exactly what people will want in fashion, but I think that people will find more value in clothes with bold, colorful and craft-based design language. For the coming collection, we are testing out different things that can only be made with human hands.
As a designer, it is crucial to network and showcase your pieces. How do you approach that during a pandemic?
I actually got an email about participating in New York Fashion Week when I was in quarantine because someone in my family had recently tested positive for COVID. Naturally, it completely changed the way I approach designing a collection, and challenged me to think about the most effective way to showcase my works digitally. I decided to make a lookbook that clearly showed the collection, and have it be presented alongside a digital runway video which hardly showed anything at all. This decision has also influenced the collection itself. People, of course, have shown different opinions on and reactions to the collection, which I think further enrich what’s lost in translation.
What is the future for Stolen Garment?
This weekend, we just had a great show where we collaborated with dancers, artists and a 3D mapping team in a quite prestigious theater in Korea. We have been participating in collaborative performance/exhibition at least once a year since our launch, and we wish to carry this on.
We are also testing new textiles including silk, and are working on laser-washing and zero waste patterns.
Keep up with THE STOLEN GARMENT on Instagram – @thestolengarment